Following his previous guidepost on understanding executive leadership in a travel management environment, consultant Duane Futch has another round of career advice. Here, he provides pointers on recognizing underperformance, finding remedies and charting progress toward improved job security.
As we move into the new year, it’s time for every travel and meeting manager to take a full assessment of his or her 2018 job performance. In many cases you will be developing this in anticipation of your annual evaluation. In other cases, this exercise reinforces your commitment to your job and professionalism.
The evaluation is the annual gut check with your boss, and sometimes other invited stakeholders, about how they view your performance. Although there should never be surprises in your evaluation, sometimes there are items that need to be addressed. You may believe all is well and good, and feel confident walking into the evaluation. You may believe that you are indispensable. Others may think otherwise.
The signs of trouble for travel and meeting managers come in many forms. These include:
1. Evaluation scores deteriorated over time
2. Your boss is no longer promoting your efforts or accomplishments to senior-level executives
3. Reporting structures abruptly change (code for being buried somewhere)
4. Responsibilities unexpectedly decrease
5. Invitations to key meetings become fewer and farther apart
When mentoring a travel or meeting manager, during the first get-together the most frequent question I receive is “why?” The first and most important question I ask in reply is if they recognized any tipping points that may have changed in their responsibilities or relationships within the company. Sometimes I get a blank stare. Other times the light comes on quickly.
How could your position deteriorate in such a short period of time – and without notice? Typically these changes go unrecognized, even when there are signs. Have you taken to heart suggestions from your boss on improving your performance? Did you miss discussions from previous evaluations on areas to improve? Did you have trouble meeting your development goals? Was there bad karma somewhere that you did not recognize? This is a situation that you must identify and immediately take action to fix – before it’s too late. Basically you have to tell yourself that it’s time to get serious about upping your game. Otherwise, chances are, you’re not going to be around much longer to participate in the game.
Areas To Scrutinize To Up Your Game
1. It’s time to see the boss. At some point you’re going to have to schedule a “come to Jesus” meeting with your boss (evaluation or not) and openly discuss your performance, your standing, your career and whether you can repair the situation at hand. This conversation may be an uncomfortable and sobering event. You may find that it’s time to jointly agree that the position is not right for you.
But let’s think positively here. If there is an issue, hopefully your boss will directly address it by discussing how you can turn around the situation. Jointly set goals for you to achieve within a very specific timeline. Your boss wants to hear your commitment to improvement and see positive changes. Remember, if your performance is lagging, your boss may be getting heat from above.
2. Create a well-structured development plan based on feedback from your boss. Be sure to delineate what success will look like, and the path to get there. Don’t be surprised if HR gets involved and monitors your progress along with your boss. Continually strive to meet and exceed the development plan and your objectives — literally on a daily basis. Schedule time with your boss to get feedback.
3. Surround yourself with subject matter experts, if you haven’t already done so. These are your mentors and champions within the company. Seek their guidance as you manage through your development plan. These folks should come from such disciplines as finance, tax, legal, audit and IT.
Before discussing or sharing any part of your development plan with your SMEs, consult with HR about any issues related to personally identifiable information.
4. Visibility/personal presence. Henceforth, every interaction with your boss, SMEs and the senior leadership team is now an interview — as is every P&L meeting. Be prepared, know your business and know your numbers. You never know when you’ll get questions about your business or a specific topic that will require crisp, clean answers.
5. Interactions. Every conversation you have should be authoritative, articulate, confident and meaningful. This is what is expected from a leader who controls the second- to sixth-largest controllable expense on the company’s consolidated P&L.
All of this is going to take a personal commitment and strong will to improve your standing in the eyes of your boss and those above. You’ve been given an opportunity to succeed, which is something a lot of folks don’t normally get. The outcome is up to you. Improve or prepare to suffer the consequences.